Hoopa Wolfpack Runner-Up at National Tourney

The Wolfpack pose for a team picture after taking second at a national basketball tournament in Phoenix, Arizona. The championship game was played at U.S. Airways Center, the arena that the NBA’s Phoenix Suns play. /Photo Courtesy of the NABI Foundation

 

By SCOTTIE LEE MEYERS, Two Rivers Tribune

The Hoopa Wolfpack basketball team – made up of 10 high-school boys – drained an astounding 20 three-pointers in one game at a national tournament earlier this month in Phoenix, Arizona. But for Wolfpack coach Wesley Hutt, it’s not about his players making baskets. It’s about them making it into college.

That’s why Hutt, a Hoopa tribal member now living in Portland, took on the coaching duties three years ago. He thought that Hoopa’s skilled players – including his own sons and nephew – were not being exposed to college basketball programs. So he called junior college coaches and invited them to scout his players at the Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) – an annual national basketball tournament in line with the coach’s values. The tournament has mandatory seminars and speakers that preach the importance of getting and staying into college. At the tournament last year, both of Hutt’s sons and his nephew were recruited to play basketball at a junior college.

Using athletics as a means of getting and staying in college is at the core of Hutt’s message. “My coaching philosophy is that you need a college education,” said Hutt. “If you want to stay on the reservation, that’s wonderful. But go off and get your education and come bring something back to the tribe.”

 

The team almost didn’t make it to the NABI tournament this year. “I didn’t think we were going to make it, we didn’t have enough money,” said Hutt. The total cost to enter the tournament, travel and lodging is over $5,000 said Hutt.

On July 4, a day before the tournament started, Hutt got a phone call from a friend who had a big enough car to accommodate the team. All eight players and two coaches piled in and drove 24-hours straight to Phoenix.

“Coach Wes’ coaching style is up-tempo, run and gun,” said Wolfpack point guard Anthony Colegrove. It’s what Hutt refers to as ‘Indian ball.’

“Indian ball is up and down, shots are deep and fast and accurate, said Hutt. It’s a style of play that’s conducive to the college level. That style of play helped the Wolfpack make it to the championship game.

The championship game was played in the US Airways Center – the same stadium where the NBA’s Phoenix Suns play. The Wolfpack players sat in the same locker room and played on the same floor as their idols, and when they sank shots and swished nets an announcer said their names.

 

“Playing in the Phoenix Suns arena is probably one of the best experiences I have had as a basketball player,” Colegrove said.

The Wolfpack ultimately lost to the Yakama Nation 72 to 53 in the final game. “Overall, I think we played really good,” said Colegrove. “We played a lot of good teams and a lot of college prospects.” Colegrove is one of those prospects. College of the Redwoods has asked him to join their basketball program. Colegrove starts school in the fall. “Basketball has made me a more responsible person. Like making the right decisions on and off the court,” he said.

More than the sound of a swishing net or fanfare from the stands, above all, Coach Hutt likes to hear that his players are enrolled in college. Hutt talked about the love he has for his players.

“I love these boys and I care about each and every one of them,” he said in a tone reminiscent of a half-time speech. “If you really want to have an impact…you have to have some connection to them. And if it’s not love, it’s not going to make as much of an impact.”

 

 

 

 

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Date
August 2nd, 2011

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